MSMEs must benefit from free trade, Robredo tells ASEAN businessmen
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo urged entrepreneurs from Southeast Asia to push for inclusive growth that would benefit even micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Robredo delivered the keynote speech during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business and Investment Summit on Tuesday, November 14, at the Solaire Resort and Casino, which was held on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. (READ: Duterte admin breaks tradition, sidelines Robredo in ASEAN)
"The problem of inclusivity is everyone's job now, because inequality has turned the world's poor into angry consumers. Technology has given them a voice, and the internet has taught them to use the power granted by democratic and political institutions," said Robredo.
She said the world has belittled MSMEs, often glossing over the fact that helping them holds the key to addressing inequality. (READ: Create pro-poor business models, Robredo tells ASEAN businessmen)
According to Robredo, both the government and the private sector play crucial roles in helping MSMEs reach their full potential.
"For too long, the world has treated micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises with casual concern, their small economic footprint keeping them in the little boy's room, unable to participate in global discussions," said Robredo.
"But if we are to solve inequality, we must ensure that MSMEs benefit from unclogged value chains, fair trade, and peace," she added.
Citing the recent crisis in Marawi City, the Vice President said creating more "inclusive and sustainable economies" will help ASEAN countries address terrorism and extremism in the region. She said the Marawi seige reminded the public that "desperation provides terrorists fertile ground for recruitment of our youth."
"We need to give our restless youth broader opportunities to take them away from that path. As technology creates faster means of sending information to a content-hungry generation, the faster it will be to influence them to either do good or bad," said Robredo.
Technology and fair trade
How should ASEAN pursue inclusive growth?
Robredo believes member-states must learn to use the latest innovations in technology – like ride-sharing apps and Airbnb – to their advantage.
"Within this backdrop, technology is a wild card we must all learn to decode – rich and poor countries alike. It is redefining our economies and changing the future of work," she said.
Artificial intelligence, added the Vice President, may also lead humans to compete with machines within the next 5 to 10 years.
"We will have to look at retooling and retraining our people so that their skills will not be at risk of automation. We will need to rewire our education systems to inculcate critical thinking skills and creativity among our youth – skills that cannot be matched by machines," said Robredo.
ASEAN countries, added the Vice President, must aim to pursue fair trade within and outside the regional bloc.
“The best thing that each of you businessmen, investors, and policymakers can do for the poor is to create a moat of responsible sustainability around your businesses. This way, you keep your employees employed and those who benefit from your goods and services stay happy. As you do better, we all do better." – Rappler.com